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Court upholds convictions of Israelis who murdered, burned Palestinian teen

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Yosef Ben David, currently serving a life sentence, was the ringleader of the group which killed Pal

Yosef Ben David, currently serving a life sentence, was the ringleader of the group which killed Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Supreme Court on Thursday confirmed the convictions and sentences of the three murderers of Muhammad Abu Khdeir, rejecting their appeals.

In May 2016, the Jerusalem District Court sentenced Yosef Haim Ben David to life in prison plus 20 years for being the ringleader in the murder of the 16-year-old Arab from Shuafat in east Jerusalem on July 2, 2014.

Muhammad Abu Khdeir (credit: Reuters)

In February 2016, the same court sentenced two minors who had already been convicted of assisting Ben David with the murder – one to life in prison and one to 21 years in prison.

Abu Khdeir was abducted, burned and brutally murdered on July 2, 2014 after being kidnapped by Ben David and the two minors.

News coverage of the slaying led to Arab riots throughout east Jerusalem and the rest of the country.

Palestinians carry the body of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir during his funeral in Shuafat (credit: Reuters)

The defense ministry recognized Abu Khdeir as a victim of hostile action, granting his family identical compensation rights as the victims of Arab terrorism, such as victims of suicide bombings.

Ben David’s appeal had focused on trying to get the Supreme Court to accept an insanity plea which the lower court had rejected.

On appeal, his lawyer argued that the lower court had incorrectly dismissed the possibility that Ben David had been experiencing a psychotic episode during the attack and recollection of the event court.

The justices did not even attempt to filter their skepticism. Justice Uri Shoham had said, “Doesn’t this narrative seem to you like fantasy?”

Next, his lawyer tried to raise questions about the psychologist expert opinion the state provided, which stated that Ben David was sane. He said the state had submitted the opinion late and defensively, showing it was invalid.

Justice Yitzhak Amit responded, “You are exhibiting a kind of audacity to make this argument. The defense only presented the defense [of insanity] one week before the verdict.”

Abu Khdeir murder ringleader convicted; Insanity plea rejected

The two minors’ appeals had focused on the idea that they had intended only to kidnap or rough up Abu Khdeir, but had no idea that Ben David had planned to kill him.

Justice George Kara and the other justices pressed the minors’ lawyers on this point, noting one of them even assisted in burning Abu Khdeir’s body while he was still alive.

One of the minors’ lawyers responded that they thought he was dead by the time he was being burned. In other words, they wanted the court to accept that the minors did not know there was an intention to kill and that assisting with burning only occurred when they thought they were burning a dead body.

Lawyer Mohaned Jabarah, representing Abu Khdeir’s family, had said they had hoped to hear “the murderers express regret, lower their heads and go to serve the sentences imposed on them,” but instead “they have filed appeals second-to-none in audacity which have no place, especially taking into account their grave crimes and the great tragedy they brought on the family.”

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